Sale of the Century

Albert Edward Collins Nice – 1889-1969

Albert Edward Collins Nice was born in 1889 in Heaton Norris, Stockport, Cheshire, the only son of George and Kate Nice. Albert’s father George was a time keeper on the Manchester ship canal.

Albert studied well and according to the 1911 census he was a chemist’s assistant. Albert was initiated in 1919 in to Brisbourne Lodge No 3374, he was also a member of Globe Lodge No 23 in 1925 and Wycome Mark Lodge No 480, being Master around 1926. He was also a Royal Arch Mason and a member of Rose Croix. He became Grand Steward in 1935, rising to the position of Past Grand Deacon in 1964.

He was a member of the Quatuor Coronati Lodge No 2076 and many of the higher Masonic degrees, a member of Golden Square KT Perceptory No 219, being Eminent Preceptor in 1926. He was also in the Knights Templar Priests, The Grand Council of Royal and Select Masters and the Order of Secret Monitor. He became a devoted collector of Masonic articles, Jewels, Books, Ceramics and Glassware. Much of his spare time was taken up by the study of Masonic research, especially the history of early Lodges.

His Masonic collection of Jewels, Books, Ceramics and Glassware including a collection of some very rare Masonic snuff boxes, grew over the years, possibly during a time in the 1940 and 50s, when few people collected Masonic items.

Albert died in 1969 aged 80. It is believed that his widow simply shut his study door where his collection was. It was not touched until this year, when Rosebery’s, the London firm of Auctioneers were called in. Peter Greenway the auctioneer said “it was like going back in time to the 1960’s – nothing had been changed”.

The sale was set for Tuesday 18th March 2014 and had 560 lots – Jewels 189 lots, 58 Snuff boxes and Masonic curios, 50 Ceramic lots, 45 Glass Lots and the rest being Regalia and Books. Of the 189 Jewel lots many comprised several Jewels per lot.

There were over 30 Thomas Harper Jewels in the collection including 17 chapter Jewels, a pierced Mark Jewel, two gallows-style PM Jewels, and over 10 other Thomas Harper Jewels – some fine examples of his craftsmanship. The other Jewels in the sale were rare plate and pierced Jewels, Napoleonic, pre reg centenary Jewels and a few larger lots of mixed Jewels, some of which had some nice hidden gems among them.

The assistant editor and I went by train the day before the sale, to see the prevue of the sale, spending over three hours that afternoon looking at each lot, particularly the Jewels. Examining each lot meticulously, as collectors we then had the challenge to get our very long “wants” list into some sort of affordable reality. We were both aware that the guide prices in the catalogue were low and that most of the Jewel lots would possibly be a lot more. We were joined the next day by one of our past presidents, so our combined knowledge of Jewels was put to the test.

The day of the sale came and there was a great buzz of anticipation in the room. There were several familiar faces of fellow collectors and dealers, including two from France and one from America. We also had live internet and telephone bidding. We did wonder whether we would be successful and get anything, or go home empty handed.

The Jewel lots were at the start of the sale. My first lot was number 3, a plate Jewel from 1802 presented by members of Fidelity Lodge No 512 (Leeds Yorkshire). I was outbid – the Jewel sold for £1612. (All prices mentioned will include buyer’s premium and VAT). Not to be outdone my next lots were No 10 and number 11 that I was successful in getting. I was fortunate that at the end of the sale I had purchased 9 lots, I will have pleasure in sharing with you over the next few Diadems.

Lot 88, a large silver and stone-set square and compass Jewel, engraved “Honourable Captain Jocelyn from his friends the Celtic Lodge Edinburgh 1845” had the highest price paid for a single Jewel on the day – £3720.

Lot 70, a Thomas Harper Gallows PM Jewel sold for £1550, and Lot 72, the other TH Gallows Jewel sold for £1364.

The two highest prices of the sale were lot 401, J Anderson’s Constitutions of the Free-masons 1723 at £6200 and lot 496, Scottish Rite Album with exquisite water-colour drawings of the regalia of the 33 degrees. French c 1820 – £6820.

The total sale figure was £265,000.

We had a super day and I know we will be talking about this sale for many years to come. Given the quantity, quality and rarity of the items I am sure this will be the Masonic sale of the century and the Auction catalogue will become a collector’s item in its own right.

My thanks go to Peter Greenway of Rosebery’s Auctioneers and all the staff, for their helpfulness and genuine interest that made the day so memorable to me as a collector. Also for the photo of Albert Nice and their permission to use any of the catalogue photos in the Diadem.

I do feel that it would have been so nice to have met Albert and had him as one of our JOTC members. His knowledge and enthusiasm would have been a great asset. Over the next few Diadems I will show some of the Items from the sale.

On the train journey home, we did say “if only we had taken more money with us!!”

Information: In Diadem No 76 page 30, 31, I produced an article on a Thomas Harper Gallows Jewel from 1811 which had a small number 93 in the bottom corner of the Jewel.

With regard to the two TH Gallows Jewels in the sale, No 70 had 116 at the bottom and No 72 had 90 at the bottom.